'You're putting us back in a tough spot': Restaurateurs react to reopening with capacity limits

Local restaurants are reacting with mixed feelings to the government’s plan to allow indoor dining at 50 per cent capacity beginning Jan. 31.

In fact some say while it’s a step in the right direction, it may lead to further losses for some in the industry.

For Matthew Long who owns MJ’s Roadhouse in Lucan, operating at just half may actually be a step backwards, at least when it comes to profits.

“You need less staffing to run the take-out only,” said Long “Now you’re going to do the 50 per cent idea where you’re going to bring in enough staff to take care of that. But at the same time you’re just hoping that those customers are actually going to show up. It’s tough, you’re putting us back in a tough spot.”

Initially, the Doug Ford government was considering Jan. 26 as a target reopening date. At least one local industry representative believes waiting a few extra days is the smart thing to do.

“It will give us enough time to plan, order, schedule,” said Jerry Pribil, who owns Marienbad Restaurant and Chaucers Pub in London, and sits as a regional board member of the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association.

 “Still, the 50 per cent capacity is great, certainly much better than doing just take out and delivery. But again, it is the 100 per cent that helps us during the Fridays and Saturdays, which are the two days that most of us in our industry are making money.”

Middlesex London acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Alex Summers warns people not to let their guard down or their mask, whether eating in or dining out.

 “Regardless of those public health measures, reduce your social contact as much as possible, make sure you’re wearing a mask, limit your non-essential gathering activities until we’re into the spring because I do think that Omicron will continue to transmit and we do know that where people gather the risk of transmission will go up.”

As for Long at MJ’s Roadhouse, he said he’ll be ready to welcome diners back in for something to eat, even if it takes a bite out of his bottom line.

“So if I lose a little money in the next few months and my people don’t leave me and can make a living, that’s way more important.”